Skip to comments.16 People On Things They Couldn’t Believe About America Until They Moved Here
Posted on 11/13/2013 9:34:38 AM PST by Responsibility2nd
A lot of people around the world have ideas of what America is like, possibly thanks to Hollywood, or their local news channels, and maybe from what theyve heard from families and friends. But then, they came here, to the grand old United States and their minds exploded. Taken from Quora.
I am originally from Bangladesh and here are a few things that I find hard to explain to peeps back home.
- Fruits and vegetables are way more expensive than meat and poultry.
- That, generally speaking, the poor is more obese than the rich.
- A lot of couples adopt children, sometimes in spite of having their own, and treat them exactly like their own. (To me, this alone is a marker of a great people)
- By and large, people do not carry cash.
- That you address your boss (and some of your professors) by some abbreviated variation of their first name. And that applies to pretty much everyone, regardless of how much older they are than you.
- Parents can get arrested for physically punishing their children.
- Severe poverty, homelessness, etc, no matter how limited, actually exist. Even in America.
- A name as common and as easy to pronounce as mine is almost invariably incomprehensible to most Americans.
- America is literally HUGE. My home country is roughly the size of Florida, one of the fifty states.
- In spite of the society being openly hedonistic and liberal, the social norms and standards still have very strong conservative religious influences.
- People don’t really care about the FIFA World Cup even though USA qualifies.
- The importance of credit rating/ credit score.
- Return policy.
- The history behind Thanksgiving.
- Black Friday and the frenzy associated with it.
- Amazingly friendly, hospitable and helpful people. Yet, a very conveniently private lifestyle.
- That, American foreign policy is a very inaccurate reflector of public consensus.
- Grinding. The dance form.
- That you cannot purchase alcohol unless you are 21 but can purchase a gun if you are 18.
Okay, so I know that there’s loads of answers here, and I couldn’t read all of them, so I’d probably be repeating some points. I’ll mention that I’m from India and that I’m writing from an Indian point of view, and what struck me as unusual based on what notions I’d built up after watching so much Hollywood and TV series.
- Dependence on GPS – I knew people who went to office everyday since the past 5 years and could not tell their way without a GPS. It was amazing! I made some friends there and they were so impressed that I could tell my way back to their home without help from a GPS.
- Cashless Society – Coming from India, where we just need cash because cards are not accepted at most places, I was really surprised by the cashless system in the US. Every place accepts credit cards. Even a small picnic I went to, which had an entry fee, had some sort of mobile app and a device attached to accept credit cards. It was amazing.
- EMIs for everything – It’s like the people there live on EMIs. Cars, phones, everything. And even the lower middle class can afford this stuff. It’s like everyone has an iPhone. Which also reminds me of the extremely bad coverage that AT&T provided. I’m used to better coverage in India. Almost forgot! Worst part was being charged for incoming. Calls and messages! It’s like a nightmare for Indians.
- Baby Car seats, Strollers – The extremely confusing rules and regulations that pervade America were already too much, but the emphasis on car seats and strollers was something new. I don’t think there’s any such thing as a car seat in India. And parents carry their children mostly, most people can’t afford strollers here. Also the cost of childcare in US is astounding because of these things that keep adding up.
- Tipping – Enough has been said about this, but I hated it too, so I’ll include it. Specially for services like a haircut. So I pay you for cutting my hair…..and then I tip you because you were gracious enough to cut my hair?!
- Public Toilets – Indian public toilets are usually in unmentionable conditions, and this was a refreshing change. Specially because half the stuff was automated. I remember thinking at first, that Americans are so lazy, they don’t want to flush their toilets.
- Cashiers talking to you – Every cashier will greet you with “How are you today? You find everything okay?” with a smile, and you’re quite thrown off the first few times. Also, I had this really great cashier at Harris Teeter give me discounts because I always checked out at his counter :) Really nice people! In general also, people were extremely polite, and many just complimented you too!
- The above point reminds me, that Americans find it very odd if people use different words than them, like British English for eg. people looked at me funny when I asked where the “Chemist” is (Drug Store). Biscuit (Cookie), Billing Counter (Cashier), Coriander (Cilantro), Petrol (Gas) are others.
- Awesome Traffic – Coming from India, I found it amazing the way traffic behaved without any intervention from traffic policemen. Just everyone following the rules. It was a bit bad in NYC, but not even comparable to where I live right now (Kanpur, India). People don’t try to cut you off. People let pedestrians cross. Also, the parallel parking is really efficient! The roads are so well maintained, and the scenery is always beautiful.
- Speed limits – The US has really high speed limits for us people following the metric system. The highest speed limits are around 75mph or 121 kmph which seemed like gross overspeeding to me. But it contributed to great drives!
- General Safety – I was travelling in Manhattan, late night Subway, when a group of loud, drunk people entered, and we were kinda scared. Immediately at the next stop, two NYPD officers entered, and stood at the doors until they were in the car. It was awesome! I felt pretty safe overall, which I didn’t even expect to.
- Quality of chocolate – It’s just not as good. Sorry folks, but a Hershey bar is the most overrated thing I ever tried. And the Kit Kat was horrible. The chocolate was oily. Yes, oily. I have no idea why. (This reminds of my trip to Walmart. I knew it was big. I just didn’t imagine it would be this big! The astounding variety of pretty much everything is just overwhelming)
- Incredible wastefulness – I was aghast at the amount of stuff people wasted every single day. Food, electricity, water, paper…in India, we reuse stuff until it can only be thrown away. But on the positive side, recycling is big there, so I guess it is mitigated in part.
- Obsession with fitness – I saw loads of people running/jogging on the sidewalks. A lot of people I knew cycled or ran marathons for 50 miles plus. This was a stark contrast though, to the average person I saw who was usually overweight. (I attributed it to insane portion sizes, as mentioned in an answer. I always ate the same sandwich for lunch and dinner)
- McDonald’s not upto the mark – This was a shocker for me. McDonald’s is like one of the best known brands of America, and the quality was arguably worse than what I get here. And I’m non-vegetarian. The burger doesn’t resemble it’s pictures at all. One (really bad) choice for vegetarians, and that was it. I went there once, and didn’t want to go again. On the other hand, Starbucks seemed totally worth the hype for me. They have great coffee.
- Patriotism – The flag was everywhere. Literally. I came to know students are supposed to pledge allegiance to their flag since Kindergarten.! (I can’t fathom how they pronounce allegiance). On the other hand, they are blissfully unaware of the rest of the world (A high school kid thought Taj Mahal is in Washington DC). But I loved how all students were involved in some sort of extra curricular activities or the other.
- The awkward public transport experience – It’s just so bad I can’t even say anything. (Not the big cities) My outings were severely cut short due to this. Cabs were insanely expensive. And I could kill cab drivers who asked for tips on top of that.
- Monotonous Cities, Cookie-Cutter Homes – This is my personal view, but the Downtown areas of almost all cities looked similar. Give or take a few things. The suburbs all looked the same. I was so weirded out by the Cookie Cutter Homes, which all looked like the same person had built it. Also, it was amusing to know that all the construction was wooden. Sound traveled too much. And I hated the weird landscaping. It seemed the whole country is sloped. Even apartments were built on slopes. I found it very funny. In India, each city looks different. Vastly different!
- Street Performers – The street performers around Union Square, Times Square were really entertaining. And I was amazed how much money they collected. I saw people give 20s. I doubt Indian street performers would ever see that kind of money.
- Religion – I always thought that America must be very laid-back about religion, like Europe, but that was not true. And one of the weirdest things I encountered was a Jewish person (in the black suit) preaching to us on the subway to believe in God, and Apocalypse or something, and giving us “Trillion dollar” notes with this stuff written on it.
14 other takes at the link. Things we take for granted freak out those who come here.
Each one of those states has its own constitution, legal standards, and tax policies.
I knew it. There HAD to be complaining about guuuuuuuuuns!
And in my opinion, the idiot MADD 21-year-old law is nonsense.
Can you believe it???
A common theme....
Obesity and food portion It is easy to find obese people in USA. Some people are so obese that they require a special electric scooter to carry them around. This sighting can be seen easily in Walmart where obese people use scooters to shop more
And yes, typical food portion in America is humongous. I can easily share one meal with another guy and do not feel hungry for hours to come.
lolol. They find that amazing?
The woman who mentioned cell phone coverage was right. After paying out the wazoo for the privilege of an iPhone on AT&T, In the UK I pay £30 a month for a Galaxy S3 with unlimited text and data and coverage in Western Europe is 100 time better than I ever had in the states
Here you don’t pay for incoming calls or texts, only the person making the call or text pays.
Had a friend from Israel over - he had visited most of Europe, but couldn't stop talking about how immense America is (flying coast-to-coast is not the same feeling you get when looking at a map).
I hear that most people in America only use one side of a sheet of toilet paper. Maybe Sheryl Crow is right!
Irish friends wanted to come over and hang out with crazy American rednecks, tear through mud, swamps and woods in a humongous American SUV while drinking beer, and go to a steakhouse in a humongous American Cadillac. That they did, sent pictures to all their friends and relatives, and had a great time in a place they’d never really even heard of but loved enough to want to come back again. America is huge, they said it too, it just goes and goes.
Really nice people! In general also, people were extremely polite, and many just complimented you too!
After living in Japan for 14 years before returning in 2002, I had exactly the opposite impression-- people were so rude!
The UN building in NYC might qualify and they want more land.
That’s just what NYC needs, more third world miscreants with diplomatic immunity.
The food portion comment is also a pet peeve of Mrs.JimSea. The lack of world knowledge is common to both USA and Thailand where geography was not taught when she was in school. The traffic is very orderly and polite here in comparison to Thailand or Southeast Asia in total. Most of the other observations are dead on.
This guy misses the irony in his points......
Yes, you can buy guns without very much of a background check. When I was driving around yesterday I saw a guy walking out of a gun store with a bag, possibly enjoying his purchase of two new pistols. It was great!
People really are afraid of socialism. This seems to be especially true the less they know about it, or believe it means turning their car in to the state. It also turns into fear of Obamacare being some sort of socialist plot, which is hilarious.
He thinks owning guns is great - yet he thinks socialism is also great.
If he only knew Obama not only wants Socialism in our healthcare but he also wants Socialism to force us to turn in - not our cars - but our GUNS to the state.
And about that turning in our cars to the state. That is in fact the goal of Obama’s brand of socialism. It began with cash for clunkers and the bailout and takeover of GM. Add in the money they give you to buy a Volt and the Unions and the CAFE standards and a thousand other regulations and you end up with what? That’s right; Socialism in our auto industry.
Yeah, I’ve heard the US lags way behind Europe and Japan in cell phone technology.
I don’t know if that’s complaining about guns or the bizarre “phased adulthood” we practice in America. It is really goofy that we make drinking the “final stage” of being an adult and it’s so dramatically delayed from things like buying guns, serving in the military, entering contracts, getting married and driving.
Reminds me of Hanoi Jane Fonda's boast that Americans would LOVE to live under Communism if they only truly knew what it was.
And then there is Bill Maher (a self-proclaimed Libertarian) who says that of course Obama had to lie about Obamacare, because Americans are too stupid to accept what's good for them.
It is incremental socialism. And it is as Ronald Reagan predicted in the early 1960s.
Calling those who oppose it "afraid" and worried about conspiratorial "plots" does nothing to say that ISN'T what it is.
Being eligible to become President comes after drinking age (age 35) and ability to draw on your life savings without facing harsh tax penalties comes even far later.
How about we legalize pot, LSD, and opiates but set minimum age of use at 40?
The US lags behind other nations in not being nickled and dimed for services. THAT is the “American” way.
I’ve seen restaurants up-serving portion sizes (and prices) over the past decade. You ARE charged for what you are being served.
Yeah but one of Trumph’s hotels in Atlantic City is CALLED the Taj Mahal!
That picture reminds me of my dad’s pickup truck. One bench seat. Dad drove, Mom sat by the door holding the baby, and me and my sister and my two other brothers sat in between.
* Every state has a lot of autonomy.
* President doesnt automatically become the richest person in the country.
* Majority of things in the US arent controlled or regulated by the government.
* Some hospitals look like five-star hotels.
* Budgets of some hospitals are equal to h/c budgets of small countries.
* Doctors tell their patients everything.
The times, they are a changing.
"Write a letter right back and tell him that you believe government economy and fiscal responsibility, that you know governments dont tax to get the money they need; governments will always find a need for the money they get and that you demand the continuation of our free enterprise system.... If you dont, this program I promise you, will pass just as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow and behind it will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country until one day as Normal Thomas said we will wake to find that we have socialism, and if you dont do this and I dont do this, one of these days we are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our childrens children, what it once was like in America when men were free." Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine
Had I my way, I'd move 'em all back where their opinions count.
18. Contents of doggie-bags are not just for doggies. :)
Some of those same hospitals are regularly visited by the politburo and "dear leaders" of counties with socialized medicine (places where those who CAN afford to travel abroad for health care do so).
I have heard a lot of these things from South Asians.
Return Policy - Does not exist back home. Though I hear now merchants are being forced into this as so many Indians have spent time in the US.
Informality at work - Very different from over there
Tipping - Very foreign to them as it does not exist back home (earning the consternation of restaurant waitstaff)
Traffic - very orderly (or at least we don’t have daily 15 car pileups that generally involve an elephant or a camel)
He says that like it's a bad thing...
” The real problem was a lack of understanding about the enormity of the country itself, and the vast numbers of people here. America. Its big.”
Which is why so called “smart growth” density in liberal controlled metropolises isn’t so smart after all. Plenty of space that can still be settled.
In Prague I was instructed to wave away the condiments and spices that the waitstaff would try to place on the table after ordering. Salt, pepper, catsup, etc. all add up on your bill. Nickel and dime (actually they could run 50 cents each).
Well, International Socialism is going to achieve its population control vision one way or another.
I hope they clean up after they make yoga in the park.
“Each one of those states has its own constitution, legal standards, and tax policies.”
And, each one also has an insatiable Federal leviathan nibbling away at its rights and responsibilities, along with that of its citizens.
MILLIONS of people think that the writings of Karl Marx are the greatest revelation of all time and just have never been properly applied in spite of the deaths of over 100 million people in one hundred years’ time.
Then there are the billion+ people who submit to the ravings of a dead conquering warlord and kill, maim, and enslave in his name to this day. Yoking themselves with the excuse that he was the perfect man and they are not to question his wisdom.
Some freak out over all the selections at Dunkin Donuts, Wallmart or the grocery stores.
I was out in the middle of nowhere in Southern Africa. Hadn’t seen a hut in the last several miles. My cell had 5 bars showing. I was amazed.
Abroad a meal can run two to three hours (mostly spent NOT eating or nibbling, just maybe drinking a cup of coffee or an adult beverage).
Here the waitstaff are apportioned sections in a restaurant. If you aren't buying anything, and you don't know to tip accordingly for tying up a "station", you are denying them a sizeable portion of their daily paycheck. It is considered inconsiderate. If there is no table service and there are not people waiting for tables, it is not an issue.
If you order an appetizer, a soft drink, etc. and others at the table only order "water" and an entree, you should pay more.
The people I always see pushing for "flat rate" are those who got the extras. Some people budget their meal expenses.
Many liberal “talking points”. Our fear of socialism, how we drive everywhere, how fat we are - insurance was a big topic as well.
I suggest individual answers were written on a piece of paper, tossed into a hat, shaken, then pulled at random by the one person who also pulled different ethnic names from another hat...
I don’t know where this person has been, but I do NOT see the flag everywhere, and I really think that American patriotism is not substantially different from patriotism in many other countries. And I find the “cookie-cutter” homes thing a very tired and boring Leftist refrain. Actually, America has a very wide variety of homes. As far as similarities are concerned, EVERY culture has a dominant style in a particular era.
Need 16 Americans to write on the topic:
“Things I couldn’t believe about immigrants until they moved here”
Was true once upon a time. The significant contributions have been on the wane since 1970. Today the supposed role models are Oprah, Obama, Jay-Z, Puff Diddy, Russell Simmons, Danny Glover, Samuel Jackson, Jamie Foxx, etc.
Not a lot of likeable persons in that group (of "music" or "cultural") icons.
Actually, I would say that renting a car is the "final stage of becoming an adult.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.